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Vandals Have Fun

A demonstrator in front of graffiti on a statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square during a Black Lives Matter protest in London, England, June 7, 2020. (Dylan Martinez/Reuters)

A few years ago, when there was a spasm of social action for removing statues of Confederate figures and the Confederate battle flag from some public spaces, I wrote that the movement taking shape then was obviously bound to take on the Founding Fathers at some point. The argument pitched at the Rebs wasn’t primarily about treason — that was just the aggravating factor. It was about white supremacy, informed by a reading of history that was peculiarly jaundiced about this country. I don’t know if Nikole Hannah-Jones of the New York Times read it, but the extension of the argument that I predicted would come was the argument at the heart of the 1619 Project.

Now, I see that Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill statues were defaced in the United Kingdom. The name of William Gladstone, the 19th-century liberal reformer par excellence, is targeted for removal from Liverpool University on account of Gladstone’s father’s participation in slavery.

In any case, these events have reminded me of the excellent book, The Final Pagan Generation by Edward J. Watts. Rod Dreher has been a champion of it for some time. It recounts very vividly the classical world in the Roman Empire in which Christians and traditional Roman pagans coexisted uneasily until the ascendant Christian youth rose up and utterly smashed the old spiritual order in a riot of vandalism and desecration.

This zealous youth movement was aided by the sophisticated and aggressive politicking of elites such as St. Ambrose, whose vast fortunes were also deployed to use in the revolution unfolding. The role of bishops in this is replicated now in the role of corporations donating to radical causes.

But what strikes me most of all is the exhilaration among this movement of vandal Christian revolutionaries. I’m sure they were often just as ignorant about the old gods as some of the yobs defacing Lincoln. Ignorance didn’t matter in the result — zeal did.  

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